Letters - Rejuvenate apprenticeships

27th February 2009 at 00:00

This week is national Apprenticeship Week and it is, without doubt, a positive campaign. But I would like to question how clear and straightforward the system behind it is.

Currently, the waters are somewhat muddied with confusing terminology and a range of different kinds of apprenticeships. To my mind, the apprenticeship brand has been devalued due to the bewildering choice, which only turns employers off.

But how to remedy this and turn employers back on? First, the Government needs to show that an apprenticeship is a genuine work-based vocational programme.

The introduction of programme-led apprenticeships (where employers offer training without supporting a full apprenticeship) and young apprenticeships (where 14- to 16-year-olds to study for specialist qualifications while spending up to two days a week in the workplace) has watered down the message. These are actually vocational courses, so apprenticeship is an inaccurate term for this provision and misleading to employers. Calling everything an apprenticeship to make it popular is not the answer.

Additionally, the Government needs to work to ensure the apprenticeship brand is seen in as strong a light as a degree - the vocational alternative rather than a lesser qualification, as some still deem it. An apprenticeship should be a gold standard.

What's more, apprenticeships should be promoted within the services sector. The UK is no longer the manufacturer it once was and it is in the services industries that we need to build up a skilled workforce.

Apprenticeships will regain their position as a gold-standard vocational qualification only when their value and end benefits are made clear to employers. And so I would urge organisations to look beyond the publicity of Apprenticeship Week, to fight through the confusion and to see the true value that apprenticeships could bring to their businesses.

John Herman, Managing director, Intec Business Colleges.

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